It’s an exciting time for UK League of Legends right now, with the new £50,000 Forge of Champions tournament on the horizon.
After a detailed press event, Riot and LVP had seemingly covered all we needed to know.
But this is Esports News UK – there are ALWAYS more questions to ask, and we were challenged to ask some difficult questions, so ask them we did! Here’s our chat with Mo Fadl, Head of UK Esports at Riot Games, and Sergi Mesonero, VP and co-founder at LVP.
One of the criticisms of the UK scene in the past has been a lack of awareness of UK tournaments. How will this format get more people involved and aware of UK LoL?
Sergi Mesonero, LVP: Definitely. For us, Forge of Champions is a wake-up call. The goal of getting as much recognition as possible so that people know there’s a competitive scene in the UK and there’s a big change, there’s big prospects for the future. That’s our main goal – that the people who play and enjoy League of Legends know there’s a competitive scene in the UK and we have big plans for it.
Mo Fadl, Riot Games: Our whole esports plans, especially for 2019 League onwards, are fully supported by the public. So we have to keep the esports team we’re building and the publishing team, so marketing, promotion, content creation through our channels and through the media channels we have in the UK. We’ll use them to the max we can, but it has to be meaningful.
I’m a big fan of guerrilla-style marketing, so going to the community, having word spread and create with them. I prefer this personally, but we have highly qualified marketeers here, Ryan Geddes joined us as head of marketing, he’ll make sure we’ll be seen and heard.
Sergi: LVP also has a marketing plan we’re sharing and coordinating with Riot. So we are both going to push.
“We don’t want to create an LCS here, we already have an LCS. But down the road, if we have teams in the UK who are billion dollar heavy, it’s a good problem to have. And then if they want to apply for an LCS slot, they can. In the future there will be ways for teams to apply.”
Mo Fadl, Riot UK
You mentioned ‘millions’ in investment going into the three-year plan with LVP. Can you elaborate? What will that be spent on?
Mo: It’s LVP when they start building their office here and structure and everything. It’s a very big financial investment.
Over the next three years millions of pounds of investment will be going into LVP… also, I’m not cheap, I’m very expensive! (laughter)
Sergi: The whole effort, when you consider Riot’s effort, what it means, their IP brand, the effort they’re going to make. If you add up all the effort of Riot and LVP, money-wise, work-wise, time-wise, investment-wise, it’s definitely in the millions.
Mo: There’s a big financial investment from LVP and from us talent-wise, and we’re working hard with [UK games industry trade body] Ukie, directly with government relations and London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s PR agency, because naturally for Riot it’s easy to build strong relationships and get public support from a governmental level downwards.
Forge of Champions features a £50,000 prize pool and aims to bring forth new talent in the UK scene and turn them into stars
That’s interesting you’re engaging with government. You’re also doing work with the British Esports Association in schools, it seems that’s important to you.
Mo: 100%. For us we want to push the whole ecosystem, it doesn’t help to focus on one corner. The whole UK scene has to flourish and has everything it needs. It needs focus and attention from core parties – publishers, governmental support, partners… we’d love to have a roundtable with key press outlets we can trust. We had an honest chat with London & Partners to see what we can do to drive interest.
What if you don’t get enough teams signing up for stage 1?
Sergi: We can drop to 40 or 32 or so. The system allows any number of teams from 1 to 64.
We did something in Latin America and got 5,000 teams signed up. But it’s a different market and story. We don’t have any goals set up, we just want teams who want to have a chance to compete.
Teams will be selected by highest elo, this helps to keep consistency from the first tournament to the others.
Mo: With Clash coming around, a lot of teams are forming that really want to step up.
“We’re working hard with Ukie, government relations and the Mayor of London’s PR agency. We want to push the whole ecosystem, it doesn’t help to focus on one corner. The whole UK scene has to flourish.”
Mo Fadl, Riot UK
What are your views on how orgs and players take prize winnings in the UK scene and the split they have? If I’m a UK player taking part in Forge of Champions, what kind of split can I expect to have? How would you like to see that shared between the orgs and the players?
Sergi: There’s two different cases. For the ex-Premiership orgs, the prize money is going to be paid to the org. We expect that they have their internal contracts with the players and it’s split in a fair way, but we’re not entering into how they should divide it – at this point.
For the teams that come from the open, the money will be split evenly between the players. I think most of them most be orgs, and even if they are, we’ll split it between the players. For the future, it’s not set in stone. In the Spanish LVP there’s no prize money. There’s money (fees the teams get, incentives for final standings, for audience, there’s salaries), but no prize money as such. Players have bonuses for winning competitions and so on. It’s a similar ecosystem to professional football.
Even profit sharing or revenue sharing, in Spain we have revenue sharing for broadcasting rights, so all this helps keeps a stable and professional competition. In the UK it’s too early to say. We are in an early situation yet.
There was a visible path to pro in UK scene when the ESL UK Prem allowed teams to progress to the EU Challenger Series and even into the LCS (as Misfits did) but now with the EU LCS being franchised, teams can’t do that anymore. What are your thoughts on that, and on orgs who want to grow to that level but can’t?
Mo: LCS is at a completely different level, it’s for the pros. Now with the partnership system in place where the teams are committing, it’s an open process; teams can apply for it and go through that process. There will be a system where teams can apply down the road.
It’s like in the NFL, if you want to get to the top, you need to have the qualifications to buy in. In the future there will be ways for teams to apply, I know players from orgs can be acquired, there are systems we’re working on now with the LCS team. How can we make this happen in the future, so we get talent moving?
It’s a system which I believe is key to push it to the next level. We’re building the UK scene. Down the road it could become a very beneficial, highly competitive and profitable scene for all teams and players.
If you look on a country-scale, there are leagues which are way more beneficial in the end for teams and players, because it’s country-specific, and that’s why we want to build a country-specific league.
But we never know what’s coming tomorrow. We said we want to become the most successful or the strongest esports community and scene in Europe, and I believe we can do it. Everything can change down the road.
Misfits technically made their way to the EU LCS from the ESL UK Prem and Challenger Series, but this is no longer possible due to franchising changes made to the LCS format
Sergi: The individual talent will always be picked up by the top teams. This happens in League of Legends, in sports, it’s the way it works.
In regards to organisations, the underdog story is maybe a bit more difficult now, but it could always happen, especially if we step up the game for regional leagues, in which they can become financially viable and have a sizeable audience. This will always not only give a lot more organisations the ability to be professional esports organisations, but it will also train them in case they want to go global.
Right now, most of the teams in a global scale, they of course have to be there, but we are still as an industry very much a young industry. So everyone still has a lot of learning to do. So the organisations that start at a national level can learn to become global brands in the future.
“If you look at top YouTubers and Twitch streamers, they make more money a day than a lot of pros do in a week or month. If we can get our UK pro players to build a brand around themselves, we’re helping them with their skill and charisma, to become a brand themselves. As a player and a team, the world is your oyster. So really step up.”
Mo Fadl, Riot UK
Mo: Listen, we don’t want to create an LCS here. We have an LCS, we have a top champions league, we have a best of the best, it should remain like this.
Our ambitions are very different. We want to create a system that focuses on a lot of entertainment and creating brands for the teams and players, and become sustainable, and financially really beneficial for them.
If you look at top YouTubers and Twitch streamers, they make more money a day than a lot of pros do in a week or month. If we can get our UK pro players to build a brand around themselves, we’re helping them with their skill and charisma, to become a brand themselves. As a player and a team, the world is your oyster. So really step up.
Down the road, if we have teams in the UK who are a billion dollar heavy, it’s a good problem to have. And then if they want to apply for an LCS slot, they can. I’d prefer they have the money and structure and following here. The more teams a European scale who have the foundation and followership and maturity, the better it is for all of esports, for the whole scene.
There’s so much more to come from us in the future.
“The organisations that start at a national level can learn to become global brands in the future.”
Sergi Mesonero, LVP
Check back on Esports News UK for plenty more Forge of Champions content over the coming weeks
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League player and WoW RPer, he has written for a range of publications including Games TM, Nintendo Official Magazine, games industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games. He currently works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association.